Director: Milton Lage
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment
Video: 1.78:1 widescreen 16:9, 1080p HD
Audio: DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, English DD 5.1, PCM Stereo
Extras: 3 Featurettes, “Foxy Lady” concert footage
Subtitles (Bonus Features only): English, French, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, German
Length: 122 minutes
Eagle Rock trots out another of what I’ve come to call their “geezer” series with their latest release, ZZ Top, Live From Texas. In all fairness, most of the acts they’ve released on Blu-ray are undeniably classic; it’s just unfortunate (with the notable exception of the Queen Live At Montreal disc) that we didn’t get to see any of these acts captured in their prime. Unbelievably, this is ZZ Top’s first ever live concert video, and it’s pretty amazing that the group can still rock after nearly forty years together. Regardless of their impending AARP status, this entertaining disc makes it abundantly clear that their nearly rabid fans are still totally absorbed by the “Little Ol’ Band from Texas!”
The performance offers up an excellent cross-section of the band’s work, and is a veritable parade of radio hits from the seventies and eighties. The set starts of rollickingly with “Got Me Under Pressure,” a staple from their MTV video glory days, and then settles into a stretch of tunes representative of their string of memorable albums from the seventies such as Rio Grande Mud, Tres Hombres, and Deguello . Powerhouse songs such as the classic medley “Waitin’ For The Bus/Jesus Just Left Chicago,” “Cheap Sunglasses” and “Just Got Paid” are drenched in the Texas style of blues that first got ZZ Top national attention, and the audience’s response is phenomenal. “Rough Boy” presents that rarity of rarities – ZZ Top playing a ballad, for Pete’s sake! And a deeply moving rendition of “Blue Jean Blues” only served to remind me of the sheer power and almost spiritual quality of ZZ Top albums prior to entering their more mookish “MTV” period.
And speaking of the MTV hits, they roll out the white fur-trimmed guitars for rousing versions of the eighties hits “Gimme All Your Lovin,” “Sharp Dressed Man” and “Legs.” I was only a little bit disappointed that they didn’t wheel out that classic red roadster and the dancing girls for the total effect. The evening ends with rocking versions of more big hits from the seventies, the classics “LaGrange” and “Tush.”
In terms of image quality, this disc is superb in every way, and offers an excellent HD presentation, with really good contrast, especially for an often dark concert film. The only fault I could find with this Blu-ray disc on a technical level was that the sound quality seemed a bit congested. I tried all three sound options repeatedly, and while the surround options offered a truly immersive experience, with a good mixture of band versus crowd noise, the vocals and guitar solos seemed a bit muted. Switching to the PCM stereo option seemed to clear the congestion somewhat, but then you lose the immersive quality of the otherwise excellent DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. I really monkeyed about with this quite a bit, even attempting to increase the center channel level significantly to try and compensate for the poor mix, but got very little improvement. It just seemed that the vocals and Billy Gibbons’ guitar were more than a little recessed in the mix.
There are some entertaining extras, including a featurette called “Poker Game,” in which the band members talk at length about the band’s history and influences over a game of poker. There’s also a really compelling concert version of the Hendrix classic “Foxy Lady;” apparently Billy Gibbons met Hendrix way back when, and Jimi taught him his signature fingering technique for the song’s intro. Which, by the way, he replicates magnificently!
All in all, this is a very good concert film, despite a few quibbles, and will be essential watching for all ZZ Top fans. Heck, just crank up the volume, grab a couple of Lone Star longnecks, and you’ll probably quickly become oblivious to any shortcomings. Highly recommended.
— Tom Gibbs